This weekend the 5th installment of the iconic Indiana Jones franchise, Indian Jones and The Dial of Destiny (Indy 5), released to theaters. The film has not enjoyed opening box office success coming in at only $60 million (against the $295 million budget) likely because of the early tepid reviews from pre-screen critics including but not limited to claims the film was another “woke” disaster.
But were the mixed-reviews fair? Was the film too woke? The Conservative Critic asks: Is it entertaining? Does it have intellectual/artistic value? And is it liberal propaganda?
Conservative Critic Meter Check: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny
Overall Rating: Not very good, but not why you think
There was a lot of scuttlebutt from early screenings and previews that Indy 5 would be somehow extremely woke and that is why it would suffer in the Box Office. I’m now convinced that the studio put out that rumor themselves so they’d have an excuse for their bomb.
The truth is a lot more simple than elaborate progressive agendas: the movie was broadly boring, the actors didn’t have chemistry and some of the editing robbed the movie of climactic moments.
On top of the fact that the film was released just a week before the upcoming Mission Impossible installment and just two weeks before the blockbuster face off between Barbie and Openheimer, Indy 5 just wasn’t very good. Unlike its most recent predecessor (Kingdom of Crystal Skull), it had the misfortune of being not very good but also not particularly camp.
So it was not a woke nightmare from beginning to end but other than a heavily character driven conclusion to a long beloved character that I don’t think audiences really needed or wanted, it’s not worth seeing.
Is it entertaining?
Rating: Too long and a bit boring
Indy 5 feels interminable. There are parts to the movie where audiences will find themselves looking around thinking, wait this part must be the climax. But the climax never truly comes and the film really serves as a lengthy epilogue to a groundbreaking franchise. Indy 5 lacks all of the innovation of Raiders of the Lost Ark, any of the mirth of Temple of Doom and none of the gravitas of Last Crusade. And in fact, quite a bit of Indy 5 is just straight up sad. There is a lot of character drama in the story and emotionally weighted concepts that have not been explored in the franchise and which frankly did not belong.
While there are action sequences one after the next, they feel a bit monotonous. The film is heavy handed with car chases which beyond being a little boring after a while also make viewers a little motion sick.
Ultimately, the characters just spend way too much talking. Part of the genius of Raiders, was there was actually barely any dialogue. In Indy 5, no one shuts up for even two seconds to let any of the tension take hold or action unfold. They are constantly talking about their feelings and plans and history and the plot and the bad guys and on and on. The best scene in the film occurs underwater where people simply cannot talk.
It is a far cry from the fun the Indy franchise deserves.
Does it have intellectual/artistic value?
Rating: Did not live up to potential
With a quality acting roster like Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones obviously) Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag) and Mads Mikkelson (Fantastic Beasts) you’d think $295 million would be enough to produce something worthwhile. Unfortunately, it’s clear the actors were never screen tested. Waller-Bridge and Ford had absolutely no tangible chemistry (chemistry does not only refer to romantic compatibility) which made Waller-Bridge’s “sassy and sarcastic” tropey character even harder to root for than she would have been anyway.
Waller-Bridge’s Helena was not a terribly likable character and it’s largely not the fault of Waller-Bridge who performed the character well for what she was. First of all, the sheer magnitude of lines which were written for her was insurmountable. In an action film, your leads should not be talking as much as Loralei Gilmore of the Gilmore Girls. For me, Jennifer Zilla, who has never once in her life shut up and who has an opinion about everything, and is kind of loud, it is really a lot for me to say that a female character talks too much. The magnitude is pretty extreme. Second, the character motivations (which she stated herself on several occasions) were, quite simply, ridiculous and unbelievable even for a film franchise which regularly includes the supernatural.
Note: criticisms simply at the existence of a female co-lead with Ford are without merit. The Indiana Jones franchise has regularly featured strong and often ‘plucky’ and memorable female leads not to mention highly competent women. There is nothing particularly woke or problematic about having a competent leading lady and certainly not one in a franchise where this has always been true. But somehow, the way she was written and the way she was performed, Helena as a character just did not work at all. There was a lot of room to create a much better and more enjoyable lady counterpart to Indy and those paths were not taken.
Additionally some of the editing was truly bizarre which is not a criticism often made. The placement of the iconic theme song was pretty random. It’s clear that the movie simply never had swelling action to a point where the theme song would make sense so they just plugged it in randomly. And when finally the movie reached a climactic peak (kind of) it sort of just puttered out into again a really long conversation and an epilogue.
Also, in an ironically consistent twist, once again, the Nazis were totally self-defeating and while Indy played a part in their journey he wasn’t really a big part in thwarting their efforts.
Is it liberal propaganda?
Rating: Actually not really
There was maybe one line that would maybe be considered woke when Helena implies that capitalism is theft. It is particularly annoying because once again Helena just does not shut up through the entire movie and the line was totally out of place in the situation. But one line does not a woke film make.
The rest of the movie is politically neutral and occasionally demonstrates conservative values. For example, early in the film is a visual depiction of a parade associated with the moon landing. The effect of this plot decision is to create a setting that is star spangled and red white and blue complete with confetti so thick visibility is limited. It was a beautiful tableau and an extremely fitting choice for a film released July 4 weekend. It was an obvious and intentional nod to patriotism and USA pride.
Additionally, there is a slight anti-Deep State narrative where members of the CIA are working with bad guys and letting them kill innocent people.
Indy 5 is not that good but it also isn’t that woke.